MEMPHIS, Tenn. (localmemphis.com) – Shelby County’s Election Commission could use some help.
Just ask Elections Administrator Linda Phillips.
Her answer was simple. “Oh, absolutely,” she said.
It has been a quiet several months for Shelby County Elections officials.
This week, County Mayor Lee Harris said if he had his way he’d withhold $5-million to buy new election machines until the commission counts votes faster, comes out against the new voter registration law, and opens early voting sights across the country.
More employees would help take care of a lot of those problems Phillips says.
“More employees could definitely help. We could have run more shifts when we were inundated with voter registration. But I only have one supervisor, and she was working 12 hours a day. That’s about all you can expect from someone.”
Phillips says if it weren’t for part-time employees, elections in Shelby County would be complete disasters.
It’s what she told Shelby County Commissioners earlier this week, when they heard from Mayor Lee Harris, who wants to withhold money to buy new voting machines until the elections officials get their acts together.
She looked at other similar sized election commissions around the country.
“The average of them,” Phillips said, “… they have 26 full-time employees. We have 18. Davidson County, which is 30% smaller than we are, they have 29 full time employees, and we have 18.”
Not only does Shelby County have fewer workers, they were not getting the pay that every employee in Shelby County was supposed to get.
$15-dollars an hour; and it came as a surprise to County Commissioners and Mayor Harris.
He told Phillips, “If there are some other employees who are on county payroll who are not getting $15-dollars an hour, I welcome Shelby County Election Commissioners to have that conversation with us.”
It was a paperwork mistake, Linda Phillips says.
“They had intended,” she said, “… for every employee who got a paycheck from Shelby County Government, which is what we do, to be at that $15-dollar an hour level.”
It’s that lack of full-time people that really causes problems she says, and talks about last year when thousands of last minute incomplete voter registration cards were brought to her office.
“We lost 50 people days of work,” she says, “… when a supervisor took a vacation. And I only have one supervisor in that area, and they are entitled to a vacation.”
Shelby County Commissioners will form a committee to look at how to solve election problems.
Linda Phillips says she would like to be a member of that group.